CARSON, Calif. – The LA Galaxy’s farewell to Landon Donovan proved to be an historic one Sunday at StubHub Center.
They earned their record fifth title by weathering 120 gut-wrenching minutes before subduing the New England Revolution 2-1 in the MLS Cup in front of a sellout crowd of 27,000.
And with that they sent out Donovan, who earlier this season announced his retirement, as a champion for a record sixth time.
“After all he’s done for everyone in this country for soccer,” Galaxy defender A.J. DeLaGarza said, “there’s no better way than to send him off like this.”
Donovan, 32, will retire as the league’s all-time leader in goals scored (144) and assists (136). He also was named to MLS’ Best XI six times and was an all-star a record 14 times.
“It means everything to him,” the Galaxy’s Omar Gonzalez said of Sunday’s dramatic victory. “To win another championship, to go to battle one last time. It looked to me like he was leaving it all out there. When Landon does that, we seem to win games.
“It was an amazing time, an amazing six years with Landon. He’s been an inspiration, a role model for myself and a bunch of the young guys on this team. He’s a legend. I can’t say enough about the guy.”
Galaxy president Chris Klein, a teammate of Donovan before heading to the team’s front office in January of 2013, said the reality that Donovan was about to wear his Galaxy jersey for the last time didn’t hit him until he saw Donovan get off the team bus Sunday.
“Then it kind of hit you that this is it,” Klein said. “He has an incredible ability to compartmentalize, and he did it today.
“Landon has given so much to the game in this country and so much to the Galaxy and the national team. What’s really symbolized him throughout his career is winning, and winning in this league and building this league.
“To be able to send him out with a championship is something that’s very special. Even bigger than that is he’s always been a team guy. Throughout the playoffs he never made it about himself. He tried to win a fifth title for the Galaxy and for everyone.”
Dan Gargan, who became a teammate of Donovan this season and won his first MLS Cup, said Donovan going out a winner was “stuff for the history books.”
“I think there are few people who get to ride off into the sunset, and he’s one of them,” Gargan said. “I’ve played against Landon for a lot of years, and what I’m most impressed with is he’s always been a supreme competitor on the field and in games. What I’ve really taken away from him is his preparation. Everything he does from Monday morning at 8 a.m. until Sunday at 10 at night, his focus is to be a champion.
“There are a lot of people that don’t quite understand the nuances of being a professional athlete. It’s not just when you show up at the stadium. It’s a lifestyle, and he really epitomizes that. To see him really live that for as long as he has and to be witness for his last year, I feel like a lucky guy.”
Veteran Todd Dunivant, one of Donovan’s closest friends on the team, said Sunday was a fitting finale for his popular teammate.
“He’s won six championships now, and you don’t do that by being a selfish guy or a bad locker room guy,” Dunivant said. “You do that by being a leader and you’re great at what you do. He’s a legend, the best this league’s ever seen. I dare anyone to try and beat him because his legacy is unmatched.
“He was always a good teammate, first and foremost. That was the No. 1 thing. He put everyone else’s interests over his and made sure the team was first. That’s why he was a leader and that’s why he was the heart of this team for the last 10 years.
“He goes out a champion, and that’s the only way he could have gone out.”